Maritime Koryak  mask
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Wood Mask.
Maritime Koryak.
Grass masks and wood masks were used among the Maritime Koryak, the former in the Whale Festival, and the latter in a Masequerade Festival intended to purge kalas (evil spirits) from their winter houses. The mask shown here is typical of Koryak wood masks, whose only elaboration is the marking of facial hair.

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In this part of Asia, wood masks were used only by the Koryak and were of simple construction, depicting gaunt-faced men with straw, fur, or patches of black paint to indicate facial hair. Animal masks or masks of semihuman beings, so widely used in North America, were not known. Waldemar Jochelson noted the reduced importance of masking in Northeastern Siberia as compared with northwestern America and saw Koryak masks as most similar to masks from Barrow, Alaska.

Taking human rather than animal or semihuman form as in America, these masks reflect changes in Siberian beliefs from a worldview in which men were dominated by animal spirits and semihuman controlling deities to one in which men exerted significant influence over their destiny. Sacrifice of dogs, bears, and reindeer was one manifestation of this change; depicting gods in human form was another.

- William W. Fitzhugh
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